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Published: Wednesday, 10/7/2009

Findlay to get windfall

FINDLAY - The city will receive about $1 million from a single estate tax settlement, Findlay officials said yesterday, but the money won't make a significant financial dent as the city faces a sizable deficit.

However, if voters approve a tax increase Nov. 3, the estate settlement would allow the city to rescind layoff notices for 18 firefighters and keep open its fourth fire station, on the east side.

Pink slips for 34 employees, including the firefighters, went out a week ago; the layoffs would be effective Nov. 8. At the time, Mayor Pete Sehnert said the firefighters, providing the tax increase passes, would be the first to be called back to work in February when revenue from the tax increase would begin to come in.

Now, with the estate tax settlement, the city can bridge a gap from November to February, keeping the firefighters on the job, said Jim Barker, the city's director of public safety and administrative services.

If voters reject the tax increase, the layoffs would take place as planned and would last for an indefinite period, he said.

Because of a projected $4.9 million deficit in the city's general fund, the city is seeking approval of a three-year, 0.25 percentage-point increase in its income tax rate. Mr. Barker said Findlay's 1 percent income tax is among the lowest in the state and the lowest for a city of Findlay's size.

The increase would generate an estimated $3.5 million a year for operations. Of that, $600,000 a year would be earmarked for flood mitigation.

The tax settlement of $1,089,963 from the estate of Philip Gardner is about $300,000 more than the $800,000 in estate tax revenue projected in the city's 2010 budget, Mr. Barker said.

Mr. Gardner, founder of Findlay Industries, a major supplier of door panels and other interior trim to the automotive and heavy-truck industry, died in 2006.

Mr. Gardner headed the company from its inception in 1958 until retiring in 2003.

He also was president of the Findlay Inn and Conference Center and chairman of Centrex Plastics of Findlay, an automotive supplier.

Mr. Sehnert noted that the estate tax settlement is not a long-term solution to the city's revenue shortfall.

It is still "imperative that the city income tax issue passes" Nov. 3, he said.

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